Seeing what ex NBA players enter the easyCredit BBL, Euroleague or Eurocup is always an interesting thing to follow as each season you see new guys coming overseas to hopefully put up big stats and return back to the big show. But for me probably the most enjoyable thing I like to observe and cover very much more today then 6-7 years ago, is exploring the magical and at times Cinderella story like careers of Americans who start at the bottom, but with focus, a brush of Black Mamba work ethic, luck and passion find a way to move up the basketball ladder. In the German Regionalliga you will find enchanting and moving stories like this on almost every team. On great example has been Tyseem Lyles who last season tore up the Regionalliga with Eimsbuetteler TV Hamburg averaging 25.8ppg, 6.5rpg, 4.4apg, Steals-3(3.1spg), FGP: 48.7%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 75.8%. There have been so many guys put up numbers like this like Mr Regionalliuga Ricky Easterling who needed many years of grooming before getting a shot in the Pro B. Lyles on the other hand received some luck and moved up 2 leagues higher to Pro A team PS Karlsruhe. He didn´t average the type of numbers he did in the Regionallliga, but had to deal with a totally new role and is developing further up the basketball ladder. Another one of these players is Orlando Parker. He is a player that had to pay his basketball dues in his first 2 professional seasons, but since then proved to have become a very good German Pro A player. Paying dues and experiencing that basketball struggle is nothing new for him. “I’ve been having to prove myself since I was in high school. I still consider myself the underdog in every team I play for and it allows me to work even harder to prove that I’m capable of playing at this level, and regardless of what the critics say I’m never going to stop doing my best”warned Orlando Parker. Parker has received a huge break and is playing his 7th professional season in England with the London Lions this season. But one can be sure that he won´t get a year pass for the London Eye or for the Natural Gallery in London, because he will continue to grind in the gym to get better and have that underdog mentality and something to prove mentality.
Parker is a 29 year old 203cm forward from Orlando, Florida who has carved out a solid 7 year professional career. His path was a bit different in that he actually didn´t begin in the JUCO or NAIA, but had enough talent for a 4 year NCAA career where he played under ex NBA player Bobby Hurley. He didn´t get those jobs in higher leagues something one can expect after a good NCAA career. Ok so he never averaged more than 7,5ppg in the NCAA, but it definitely should have given him a better rookie opportunity than having to play in Ireland for the UL Eagles Limerick. He then came to Germany and the rest is history. His good rookie season in Ireland where he averaged 19.9ppg, 8.6rpg, 1.1spg, 1.2bpg, FGP: 45.5%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 78.5% didn´t give him a better deal than landing with the Baskets Vilsbiburg (Germany-Regionalliga) However he had an explosive season averaging 22.6ppg, 9.4rpg, 1.5apg, 1.3spg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 55.6%, 3PT: 33.8%, FT: 79.3%. That strong season allowed him to go to PS Karlsruhe where he played 4 seasons. He helped the club move up to the Pro A in his first season and stayed in the Pro A the last three years. After a strong personal first season in the Pro B where he averaged 13.2ppg, 5.7rpg, he needed no adjustment period as he nearly averaged in double figures in each season. In his 3 year Pro A career, he averaged 11,8ppg and 5,1rpg while eclipsing the 40% mark in 2 of 3 seasons. The American is a very versatile player that can guard the position 1-5 and demonstrates that great defense doesn´t always have to show up on the stat sheet and is simply a team player. He is one of those guys where each season there will be at least one teammate that will say he is the best teammate that player has played with like Bryan Coleman did. “ OP is a great guy and teammate. He was definitely one of my best teammates this season”, stressed Bryan Coleman. I´m sure when his time is over with the London Lions, there will be guys uttering the same kind of words.
Parker´s last game with PS Karlsruhe was on March 11 where he suffered a tough 98-91 loss to FC Schalke. Overall it was a difficult season for PS Karlsruhe. “‘We definitely had an up and down season since the beginning. We had a lot of roster changes and a coaching change as well. For the most part we had a lot of close games’ We started off really good and of course we came across some obstacles that we couldn’t overcome. But that group showed a lot of character and hunger to get better everyday despite the challenges”, warned Orlando Parker. But at least he still finished the season strong netting 18 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. He also ended the season well shooing 7/15. Overall it wasn´t one of his best season´s from his perspective. He played 27 contests averaging 11.9ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.4apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 54.3%, 3PT: 32.5%, FT: 77.4%. He scored in double figures in 16 games and exploded with 29 points in the very exciting 84-83 victory against Phoenix Hagen and registered 24 points in a loss against Nurnberg and had 21 points in a win over the Artland Dragons. It was his outside shooting at a clip of 32% that really bothered him. Many guys would still be totally happy about those kind of stats, but not Parker. “I honestly just wanted another run in the playoffs and hopefully be a part of something special again. After coming up from the 4th league and winning Pro B, I was addicted to success and I wanted to have that feeling again. It was definitely a down year for me but also a big learning experience. The best is yet to come”, warned Orlando Parker. He must have been feeling something extra special , because yes indeed the best was yet to come”, but not right away. His patience and experience of the transfer market in COVID-19 times proved to be exact on the money.
It was a long, hard and demanding summer for so many professional basketball players in the world and it wasn´t any different for Parker. The American wasn´t able to return home right away, but actually remained in Germany until June and just tried to live as normal a life as possible. Obviously being at home for a very long extended amount of time and being able to spend more time with families and friends was a huge plus, but getting into that normal summer routine with work outs and improving one´s craft was very strenuous for any player. Especially a guy like Parker who really invests extra time on his game during the summer months. He is a player that relies on this extra time to work on his craft, because it is this work that helps shape his game for each new season. “The summers are the most important time of the year for any basketball player doesn’t matter the level I wish there was a secret but every player already knows that it comes down to hard work. The off-seasons are huge for me and my development. Each year I try to add something new to my game and overall appearance”, warned Orlando Parker. There are most likely guys out there that would never have trained outside on courts where you can´t always control your shot due to weather and wind, but for Parker, any rim and court will do. ““It was very tough. Most gyms had very strict restrictions on allowing access to the public. But luckily I found an outside court that still had rims that I could use”, remembered Orlando Parker. Of course COVID-19 was also a time where he could continue to develop his near flawless character with experiences off the court. ““I learned to be patient and to control what I can control” warned Orlando Parker. He also knew that the summer transfer period would be one that nobody had ever seen before. There would be more guys around than the last year as new rookies were ready to swarm to Europe, so he definitely went into this uncertain time with the right mentality and an open mind. “Definitely staying positive about the situation but honestly this Is tough because we are all unemployed right now until who knows when. So it’s a big wake up call to start thinking about life after basketball”, warned Orlando Parker in the spring of 2020. You didn´t find Orlando Parker on a roster at the beginning of the 20-21 season in Germany. I was never worried when I didn´t see his name pop up with a team. I figured he would resign with PS Karlsruhe, but also wondered if now may be the right moment to leave Germany and play in another country? ““For me it was all about finding the right fit. I had some offers but nothing that got me excited to play again. I was very patient during this process, although the market was slow and tougher than any other season. I was okay with waiting for the right opportunity to come up”, stressed Orlando Parker.
It was a Saturday November 21st when I open up the eurobasket.com page and there was Orlando Parker on the main page with the headline Orlando Parker Joins the London Lions. I had to reread it at first, because I was in a way a bit surprised. I mean he has been a good guy to me for years hooking up on 8 interviews and I always wished the best for him, but becoming a member of the London Lions wasn´t any easy feat to accomplish My second thought was of complete happiness. Here is another guy continuing to climb the basketball ladder. He had reached the first division for the first time in his career and plus living in London. You have to be kidding me. What an amazing story. Parker moves from Karlsruhe to London. I can think of 100´s of guys right now playing in Germany that would beg for that type of opportunity. Taking this offer was as much as a no brainer like it was for Dennis Schroeder to pick the Los Angeles Lakers. ““I’m extremely excited to do something special here with a very talented group. For me I always had a goal of playing for a cup team. Whether or not it was FIBA CUP, Champions League, Euroleague etc. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of playing in multiple leagues during the season. But of course the location of this deal was even better so it was almost a no brainer for me”, warned Orlando Parker. Another plus for the American is that he isn´t going somewhere where he will be thrown into cold water, but is familiar with other players battling in the UK BBL. ““I’ve heard a lot of positives about the league and of course I know some guys that are playing here. Justin Gordon, Cortez Edwards, Liam Davis, Kahron Ross and a few more guys”, said Orlando Parker.
Playing for the London Lions is an opportunity that would give many guys that kid in a candy store feeling. The club is stacked with serious talent and has something very rare. They have 2 ex NBA players with Byron Mullens that was a first round NBA pick of the Dallas Mavericks and played 5 seasons in the NBA and Deandre Liggins who won the NCAA title with Kentucky(NCAA) won a D-League title and played a season with Lebron James and the Cavs. Plus there are 2 other very talented Americans with Kevin Ware and Dirk Williams as well as very talented British players. The difference to Karlsruhe in terms of roster competition will be like day and night. With PS Karlsruhe he was a main go to guy, but with the London Lions will have a totally different role. Of course backing down and accepting a new role with possibly less minutes is something that Parker will shine at thanks to his character. He has been waiting for an opportunity like this for years and with all his unending hard work in the summers and development as a player will be 100% ready for the challenge. He is a guy that won´t go in nonchalantly, but will be in attack mode right away. His self confidence button is already turned on and at the peak of a mountain. “I´m just going to go out there and compete and the rest will take of itself”. I’m sure my role here will be vital to the team´s success. I’m confident whatever team I’m on I’ll make an impact”, warned Orlando Parker. He is also totally ready to battle guys like Mullens and Liggins on a regular basis. ““It’s fun playing with guys who’ve played at the highest level. I like the challenge to get better and pushed by those guys but also for them to know about me as well”, stressed Orlando Parker. Knowing that he is teammates with a player like Deandre Liggins who has the skill level of a player that he rarely saw in the German Pro A excites him, but in the end, it really doesn´t matter to him who the name is. ““I see everyone the same in my eyes. Of course that stuff is cool to talk about and I’m sure he has a lot of stories that will be interesting to hear about”, commented Orlando Parker. He developed very nicely with PS Karlsruhe and showed his vast versatility and efficiency on a regular basis the last years and will have to do it again this season. Being efficient playing less minutes will be a new challenge, but one he can tackle and beat. ““I’ve done it before so this will be nothing new for me”, warned Orlando Parker. He showed in his first game that he can make an impact as he scored 11 points and had 2 rebounds in the 99-79 victory over Newcastle. One of my favorite quotes from Orlando Parker is this. “I’m never content with anything in life, but one of my favorite phrases to live by is ‘You can’t rush greatness’ so my time will come for the BBL”, said Orlando Parker who currently is loving the series Shark Tank. He stated this to me not long ago and actually meant the German BBL. Even if he has reached a new peak in his basketball career, the British BBL isn´t the same. “I don’t want to take away anything from the UK BBL but in my eyes the German BBL is a bigger accomplishment, only because I came from the bottom”, warned Orlando Parker. This quote proves once again that despite being almost 30 years old, Orlando Parker isn´t satisfied yet and never will be.. “I’m never content with anything in life. I believe there is so much room for improvement on my game and I can get better. I’m not going to stop climbing the ladder until I reach the highest level”, warned Orlando Parker. The London Lions is a great new challenge and a great resume boost. But for the moment the American will do all he can to help his new team win in any way possible and continue to work on his craft, because even at his age sky is still the limit.